Holding onto “ordinary life” in extraordinary circumstances

Michelle Seabrook  March 18th 2020

1.The mixed bag of feelings.
Everyone will be experiencing a different emotional reaction to the current situation, such as fear, anxiety, distress, denial, loss, anger, or hope; either in isolation or as a rollercoaster ride. Remember, this is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. Life as you know it has been turned upside down. So, whatever you are feeling, that is okay. Others around you may be in a very different emotional state, and that too is okay. Try and keep some perspective that both your feelings and others’ emotions will change, and it is normal to feel differently to others at different times. There will be peaks and troughs and this is all to be expected. Express yourself: write, draw, or speak to others about how you are feeling. If you need a professional ear, many therapists are offering online sessions, so it’s worth seeking these out.

2. Fail to prepare?
If you have to self-isolate when you are well, preparation will be your best friend! It can be really important to your well-being to have a plan of things you can do, such as:

· Continue with existing things you enjoy at home and access new skills you can learn, there are many ways you can expand your mind from your armchair, it doesn’t all have to be about binge-watching boxsets.

· Stay in touch with people, you may need to think creatively about how you can maintain a connection with others. For example, if you attend a regular social group this could be conducted remotely by using an online platform. Agree to talk at regular times. Use whatever tech you can to keep in touch.

· Exercise is essential, but you don’t need to don the lycra! Think of exercise as ‘movement’, whether that is having a kitchen dance off with the kids or gardening, there are many ways you can get your body moving. Getting fresh air really will make a difference.

· Timetabling these home-based events is key. Try stick to the plan as much as possible and include all of the household in your prep, so that everyone is on board and can contribute to what will help them too. In this time of uncertainty and lack of control, developing a sense of agency can really help.

If you need to self-isolate due to illness, again planning can be really helpful. Reach out to close neighbours or friends who you can ask to run errands or supply you with everyday needs. Local communities may have already set up ‘isolation plans or teams’ on social media so these are worth seeking out. Please, ask for help when you need to. Helping each other is the key.

3. Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go…
If you are now working from home for social distancing measures: set up your home office to be as practical as possible. Follow your normal working routine and keep your boundaries e.g. start and finish at your normal time, and take your usual breaks. Context markers can be very helpful: wear what you would normally wear for work (however tempting pyjamas are!) and have items around you that remind you of your usual working environment, such as paperwork, folders, cups, stationery etc.

4. Last thoughts:
Remember, what helps in these uncertain times is when people pull together. A sense of community is about fairness for all, so no hoarding. Developing a ‘we’ or ‘community’ stance during these difficult times is far more helpful than an ‘I’ stance. Keeping the most vulnerable at the forefront of your mind can help put things into perspective.

Let’s hope that when ordinary life resumes, we will emerge out of this extraordinary situation with an increased sense of community and hope.

Stay well, Michelle